It’s been a tough preseason for the Bradford wrestling team, but there is optimism for growth and success as the season progresses.
The team was only able to have three practices before winter sports were delayed, but since returning to practice, Bradford has had some low numbers to start out and will have just five wrestlers compete on the varsity side in their first meet today at Port Allegany.
Head coach Jamey Miller, though, said the numbers will improve and the team should have enough wrestlers for a near full lineup, as soon as other wrestlers get in their 10 required practices.
After a long offseason that had no offseason tournaments for the wrestlers to compete in, the team is happy to be back on the mat.
“They’re ready to be back because normally most of those kids in there are with us year-round, now even if they’re doing another sport, they’re still coming in to get a workout in even if it’s just cardio, maybe drilling with somebody for a little bit, doing something,” Miller said.
“Then there’s others that would typically be wrestling year-round; that just didn’t happen this year. Everything was getting shut down on the whole way around the state.”
Since practices have resumed, it’s easy to think that winter sports athletes may not be in game shape as a result of the delay or show some rust, but Miller said that hasn’t been the case from what he’s seen from his wrestlers so far.
A challenge that winter sports coaches are facing is getting their teams in game shape in a short amount of time before competition begins and/or as the season progresses.
“They walked back in and hit it full tilt again, so evidently they were at least getting cardio in on their own because their conditioning hadn’t tapered off and they knew right out the gate that there was going to be no ramp up this year, we were hitting it full tilt,” Miller said. “Usually we kind of ease into it a little bit and now I just point blank told them we’re going to have to go hard from day one guys, it’s all there is to it.”
This offseason also featured some changes with the number of weight classes being reduced from 14 to 13. The weight classes up to 160 pounds were not changed. The previous weight classes after 160 pounds were 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. Now they are 172 pounds, 189, 215 and 285.
Miller has mixed feelings regarding the change because it’s one less person who’ll have the opportunity to wrestle.
“I don’t know if I agree with it or not, I guess time will tell,” Miller said. “I mean my feeling personally if they were going to cut a weight class it should’ve been at the bottom of the scale at 103, but that’s not what happened, just because that weight class always seemed low I mean you might get a freshman that’s that small but very seldom do you see a sophomore, junior, senior in that weight class.”
Miller doesn’t believe the changes will affect Bradford significantly, saying they’re possibly going to have multiple wrestlers at 220 this year, but other than that, they should have a full lineup except for the 106-pound weight class.
The team has five returning letterwinners, including juniors Brett Thompson and Devon Poe, both of whom Miller is expecting big things out of come the postseason.
“Devon has worked his tail off all offseason and the proof’s in there,” Miller said. “He’s a second-year kid and he’s in (there) wrestling around with Brett Thompson and staying with him. He’s not beating him, but he’s staying with him as a second-year kid and Brett’s been wrestling pretty much since he came out of the womb.”
Miller is expecting most of his team to stay in their respective weight classes. The only change might be Cassius Rissmiller who’ll wrestle at either 152 or 160 pounds. Luke Kerr, a freshman, is expected to wrestle at 170 pounds.
“I think he’s going to make a little bit of noise at the district tournament this year,” Miller said of Rissmiller. “He’s showing a lot of improvement. He took a lot of lumps last year as a freshman but stuck it out and kept working and it’s showing up.”
Being in the IU9 bubble for this season, Miller said some of the teams they’ll be wrestling against are teams they’ve gone up against before, but this young team with no seniors is making the best out of what they have to work with.
“I’m not expecting a lot as far as the duel meet season goes just because we’re a young team,” Miller said. “Typically we’d wrestle all over the state and this year that’s not happening, so we’re just going to wrestle everybody twice and run with it.”
Miller said one of the biggest keys for the team is to keep working hard and not only work toward their future goals, but also work towards a daily goal each day, while keeping the right mindset.
If the Owls can do just that, then the sky’s the limit, especially in the postseason.
“I tell the kids almost every day anybody can be beaten on any day. Forget about those rankings, forget about the records, just go wrestle,” Miller said. “The work that some of these guys have put in on their own says a lot to me about what’s going to happen for them in the postseason.”